Eastern subterranean termites are a highly social insect centred around a primary breeding nest. The colony consists of several general castes, each with a different role to perform, and interdependent upon each other for their survival... the queen, king, the winged reproductives (young
kings and queens), soldiers and the destructive workers.
Queen, King and attendant Workers
Worker Termites - do all the damage
||THE QUEEN TERMITE
is an egg laying machine, her body is enormous compared to her off-spring
and she can live more than 25 years and produce more than 2,000 eggs
and queen live in a central chamber and are feed and attended to by
the worker termites.
termites are by far the largest caste in the eastern
subterranean termite colony and
the one that does all the damage. They carry out all work in the nest,
including gathering food (timber and other cellulose), constructing
tunnels, repairing and enlarging the colony nest, grooming and feeding
the soldiers, the king, queen and young nymphs in the nursery.
IDENTIFICATION: Eastern subterranean worker termites are small in
size, about half the size of match-head or 1/8" long. They are a creamy
translucent colour, soft bodied, have no wings, are sterile, blind
and work 24 hours a day for their entire adult life-span.
are the defenders of the colony, particularly against marauding ants
- with whom they have been at war for more than 250 million years.
IDENTIFICATION: the soldier termite has an orange coloured, rectangular
armoured head, with mandibulate pinchers which they use to crush the
ants. On their forehead is a fontanelle (frontal gland hole) used
to squirt a sticky latex to ensnare the ants. The soldier's mandible
pincers are curved at about 70 to 90 degrees. The body of the Eastern
subterranean termite is flat, with the width of approx 1/32”.
CONSUMER NOTE: If you open termite
infested timbers or their mud tunnels or shelter tubes, it is the
soldier termites that rush out to guard the area whilst the workers
repair the breach. The identification of these insects as "termites"
means an immediate professional inspection and protective measures
are essential to avoid further ongoing or extensive damage. Remember:
the standard home insurance policy in Alabama, does NOT cover the
costs of repairs or replacement of termite infested timbers in a home.
or REPRODUCTIVE termites - scientifically called "alates"
are commonly seen by homeowners in Alabama, when they swarm in large
numbers, generally in the spring, during daylight. They have eyes,
are poor fliers but can be swept hundreds of yards, by the wind. When
they land, they drop their wings, find a mate to become king and queen
of a new termite colony.
IDENTIFICATION: Eastern subteranean
termite "swarmers" are about 3/8" in length, including wings. They have a
dark brown body and a small fontanelle (frontal opening) on it's
head. Their wings are a brownish grey, with two dark solid veins along
the forefront of the front wings, which are distinctly larger
than hind wings.
WHEN DO THEY SWARM?
In the northern part of their range, swarming takes place in the spring,
but without rain. In the southern areas, swarming usually follows
rain. Occasionally, a few smaller swarms may occur during the summer.
Swarming most often occurs during the morning following a warm rain
shower whereby the soil temperature is around 70°F. The swarmers
are emitted in their thousands when a mature termite nest is large
and well established.
CONSUMER NOTE: If you find swarmer
termites in or around your home, it is a sure sign a large nest is
close by and that your home is at high risk of a termite infestation.
Colony nest development is slow in the first few months, with the
egg-laying capacity of the new queen termite peaking after a few years,
producing up to 10,000 offspring a year. The queen may live for many
years and workers up to two years.
Several years are required
before the termite colony reaches the typically mature size. In some
locations an Eastern subterranean termite colony can contain several
million termites foraging over a wide area (up to 12,000 square feet)
and actively feeding on trees and freestanding poles as well as buildings
and other timber structures.
The colony nests of Eastern
subterranean termites are usually located in the ground below the
frost line, but above the water table. Mud galleries or "shelter
tubes" are constructed across hard objects in order to gain access
to timber food sources.
Eastern subterranean termites
constantly search for new food sources. They are known to enter buildings
through cracks in concrete flooring or to travel under parquetry or
tile flooring through gaps of less than 1/16" wide.
Where moisture regularly
collects inside the wall or other cavities of a building, say from
faulty plumbing or broken roof tiles, the Eastern subterranean termite
can develop a subsidiary colony nest which may not require contact
with the ground to ensure it's survival.
They build a central colony nest from
which they construct underground tunnels that radiate within a 100 yard
radius from a central colony nest in search of a timber (cellulose) food
The picture on the left shows a termite inspector examining
an above ground termite subsidiary nest built inside a wall
cavity of a home.
Termites often build such nests if moisture is allowed to regularly
collects inside the wall cavity, say from leaking pipes, shower
recess, faulty plumbing, guttering, broken roof tiles, etc.
travel in humidified mud-shelter tubes or galleries...
The picture on the left shows a mud shelter tube that subterranean
termites have constructed over a solid object, in this case,
a brick foundation wall in the sub-floor of a cottage.
Subterranean termites travel in these mud shelter tubes as protection
from predators, sun-burn, dehydration and to maintain a high
humidity environment which is essential for their survival.
Eastern subterranean termites are highly
secretive, preferring to enter a building through areas inaccessible
to inspection, such as, through in-fill patios, fire heaths,
expansion joints and cracks in concrete slab (on-ground) flooring.
Eastern subterranean termites can pass through a 1/8" crack
or an expansion joint (eating through the rubber compound) between
adjoining concrete on ground flooring. They can also travel
under parquetry and floor tiles to get to the wall framing timbers.